We are surrounded by a wealth of stately homes and beautiful gardens which are at our disposal and Highclere Castle was one such venue which, having been an avid fan of Downton Abbey I was very keen to visit. It had taken me a while to get organised and when I at last looked online to book tickets I was really dismayed as they were totally sold out. This is a seasonal house and only open during some months of the year I think at the time mainly due to the filming schedule. Disappointed I noticed that there were a few special tickets available at an inflated cost to view the house so making an executive decision I booked two. My girls were all busy and Alasdair is not really a Downton fan so I persuaded my sister to come with me.
As we approached this imposing stately home I was surprised how peaceful it all was. I was slightly taken aback when we were greeted at the door by Lady Carnarvon and were ushered into the magnificent hall. We were then taken on the most fantastic tour of the house and Lady Carnarvon kept us informed as we passed the great ancestoral portraits. It was a great pleasure to walk through her home in her company. The history of the family is fascinating and colourful and we toured all the wonderful bedrooms, reception rooms and dining halls. It all felt very personal the rooms are full of family photographs and portraits. Some rooms seemed to have stood still in time such as one which was full of theatrical photos of glamorous wives and a fantastic photo of the 6th Earl at his 1920’s style wedding. This all gave great character and depth to the visit. We also saw the museum beneath the house which is a tribute to the famous Earl of Carnarvon George Herbert who was well known as the financial backer to Howard Carter in the excavations of Tutankhamuns’ tomb in the Valley of the Kings. I was particularly fascinated by this as during my time at the British Museum I spent many an afternoon in the cellars of the Museum with shelf after shelf of Mummys’ in various states and Egyptian objects preparing exhibitions.
The grounds of Highclere Castle are equally as beautiful, originally designed by Capability Brown and his famous Broadleaf Trees still give great architectural significance to the grounds. There is an Etruscan Folly a short walk away with a magnificent view of the main house. We sat in a small courtyard with a welcome cup of tea and browsed the gift shop which is full of fascinating books by various family members as well as souvenirs!
The drive out of the estate is a great pleasure as you pass The Temple of Diana and exit via the London Lodge a imposing stone archway which is quite magnificent. I felt as though we had a comprehensive view of the family and its history. A great day in the Berkshire countryside. Highclere Castle